Tuesday 17 October 2023
Business and Trade
Smarter Regulation Programme
My noble Friend the Minister of State for the Department for Business and Trade (Earl of Minto) has today made the following statement.
Today the Department for Business and Trade has launched a Call for Evidence into the regulatory landscape. The Call for Evidence can be accessed via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/calls-for-evidence/smarter-regulation-and-the-regulatory-landscape.
The Government are driving regulatory reform across Whitehall via the Smarter Regulation Programme, which launched on 10 May with the publication Smarter Regulation to Grow the Economy. Smarter regulation means only using regulation where necessary, and ensuring its design and use is both proportionate and future-proof.
Since then, we have announced numerous reforms across these areas. For example, on the stock of existing regulation, we have launched consultations on reforming employment law; wine sector reforms; and the product safety and furniture fire consultations. The latter will future proof our approach to product regulation, alongside indefinitely extending CE recognition. Additionally, we launched a series of consultations aimed at improving the outcomes that independent regulation delivers—this includes Strategic Steers for the Competition and Markets Authority; the Strategy and Policy Statement for Energy regulation; and most recently we consulted on extending the existing growth duty to Ofgem, Ofcom and Ofwat.
We know there is concern around the complexity of the regulatory landscape; the agility and proportionality with which regulators make decisions; and governance and accountability. This Call for Evidence is an opportunity to further understand the detail of these issues and test how widespread they may be, providing an evidence base from which to identify improvements that can be made over the short and longer term.
The first step in addressing such concerns will be to collate evidence on precisely how the regulatory landscape is impacting businesses, consumers, and regulators. Our first and principal focus is to understand what works well and what could be improved in how regulators operate to deliver for the sectors they serve. It seeks views on regulatory agility; proportionality; predictability and consistency of approach. Secondly, it asks whether there are any further steps we can take to reform the existing stock of regulation on the UK statute book—both retained EU law and wider regulations.
This will be accompanied by an ambitious programme of workshops with consumers, consumer groups, businesses, regulators and think tanks.
The Smarter Regulation programme covers three pillars:
Reforming the existing stock of regulation—both retained EU law and wider domestic regulation—to cut business burdens and future proof our regulatory frameworks;
Ensuring regulation is a last resort and not a first choice, by putting downward pressure on the flow of new regulation and deploying alternatives wherever possible; and
Ensuring that independent regulators perform as well as they can and deliver the right outcomes for consumers. This includes supporting the drive for innovation and economic growth.
The Call for Evidence forms part of the third of these pillars.
The Call for Evidence will run for 12 weeks and invite businesses, public sector bodies, individuals, and other interested stakeholders to set out their priorities for an improved regulatory landscape.
The information that the Government receive through this exercise will be beneficial in shaping our approach to regulations and our priorities and objectives, ensuring that our final approach is informed by stakeholder needs.
We welcome responses from all stakeholders across all sectors in the economy but note that we are not seeking views on financial services regulators and regulations. These are handled by HM Treasury, where there have been positive and industry-welcomed reforms in this space in recent years.
Statutory Instrument Programme
In parallel to today’s Call for Evidence the Government are continuing their programme of Statutory Instruments under the Retained EU Law Act, which seek to optimise retained EU law for the UK and ensure the law is clear and accessible. Yesterday we laid Statutory Instruments (SIs) that will ensure we can continue the effective operation of rail passenger services and ensure our intellectual property framework continues to function. We will keep pursuing our drive to reform retained EU law by bringing further regulations for Parliament to consider.
The Government are committed to lightening the regulatory burden on businesses to help spur economic growth. We will publish a summary of responses and will continue to keep Parliament, the devolved Administrations, UK citizens and businesses updated, as we make progress.
UK Trade Negotiations: Switzerland and Canada
Trade Negotiations Update
Since the House adjourned for conference recess, the Department for Business and Trade has made good progress on two key trade negotiations. This statement provides Parliament with an update on the UK’s trade negotiations with Switzerland and Canada.
UK-Switzeriand Trade Negotiations
The second round of negotiations on a UK-Switzerland enhanced free trade agreement took place from 18 September to 6 October.
During the round, which was virtual, UK officials held discussions with their Swiss counterparts across all negotiation areas. The talks were technical in nature, focusing on trade policy priorities for both countries and in a number of chapters, supported by draft treaty text. This has enabled further progress in identifying areas of alignment. Discussions continue to be constructive and collaborative, with both sides agreeing next steps to ensure further progress at round 3, which is scheduled for later this year.
These negotiations demonstrate our shared ambition to agree a modern, comprehensive agreement that reflects the current and future UK-Swiss trade relationship.
The UK is working to negotiate an agreement that delivers modern services and investment provisions, while further removing tariff barriers to create mutually beneficial commercially meaningful opportunities for our world-class producers and exporters.
UK-Canada Trade Negotiations
The seventh round of UK-Canada free trade agreement negotiations took place from 11 September to 15 September. This round was conducted in a fully virtual fashion, with negotiations taking place online across all sessions.
Technical discussions were held across 23 policy areas over 53 separate sessions. They included detailed discussions on treaty text.
Both parties built on the momentum from agreeing in principle UK accession to CPTPP in March 2023. The negotiations continue to reflect our shared ambition to secure a progressive deal which strengthens our existing trading relationship, already worth over £24.8 billion in the year to Q3 2022.
The Government remain clear that any deal we sign, including with Switzerland and Canada, will be in the best interests of the British people and the United Kingdom economy. We will not compromise on our high environmental and labour protections, public health, animal welfare and food standards, and we will maintain our right to regulate in the public interest. We are also clear that during these negotiations, the NHS, and the services it provides is not on the table.
His Majesty’s Government will continue to work closely with Switzerland and Canada to ensure negotiations proceed at pace and take place on terms that are right for the UK.
The Government will continue to keep Parliament updated as these negotiations progress.
Culture, Media and Sport
Statutory Levy on Gambling Operators: Publication of Public Consultation
I wish to inform the House that His Majesty’s Government have today published the public consultation entitled “Consultation on the structure, distribution and governance of the statutory levy”.
Following the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005, the gambling White Paper published in April 2023 outlined a comprehensive package of measures to introduce robust new protections against gambling-related harm. One of the key proposals in the White Paper was the introduction of a statutory levy, replacing the system of voluntary contributions.
We have welcomed the contributions that industry has made to research, prevention and treatment since the introduction of the Gambling Act. However, we recognise that funding is not the only requirement for effective research, prevention and treatment arrangements and this alone will not achieve our objective for a system which is equitable, ensures a high degree of long-term funding certainty and guarantees independence. Issues surrounding the independence of the funding has resulted in the NHS ending all arrangements with organisations in receipt of direct funds from operators, creating a barrier to robust integration between NHS and third sector services. Some researchers have also refused this funding given its source and for fear of being compromised or lobbied by the gambling industry.
We committed to addressing these issues by introducing a statutory levy via secondary legislation to ensure independent, long-term and trusted funding for research, prevention and treatment, with appropriate Government oversight. This is in line with the Government’s objective of protecting people from gambling-related harm and ensuring that sufficient funding is being effectively directed where it is needed most. The levy will be paid by gambling operators and collected and administered by the Gambling Commission, with spending decisions approved by DCMS and HM Treasury, putting the independence of funding beyond absolute doubt and guaranteeing sufficient funding where it is needed most.
Today, we have launched a public consultation setting out the Government’s proposals in these areas as follows:
Structure: we propose that online operators pay the levy at a higher rate than land-based operators. In line with the White Paper, our proposals have taken into account evidence of the differing association of different sectors with harm and/or their differing fixed costs to ensure that rates are fairly and proportionately set, while raising sufficient funding for key projects and services. We expect that the levy will raise c.£90 million to £100 million per year when fully in force.
Distribution: we propose that c.10-20% of levy funding should be directed each year to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the umbrella body for UK research councils, as part of a new, multidisciplinary gambling research programme; 15-30% should be used to fund a programme of prevention and education to raise awareness of gambling harms across Great Britain; and 40-60% should be directed to the NHS to improve and expand treatment commissioning for gambling addiction across the full treatment pathway.
Governance: we propose that a statutory levy board and separate advisory group are established to ensure appropriate Government oversight of the levy system, as well as creating a forum for sector experts across public health, academia and charities to inform funding priorities.
We recognise that the statutory levy represents a generational change to funding arrangements for research, prevention and treatment and that there are complexities around the transition to this new system. We want to provide clarity for the sector as quickly and as transparently as possible while providing adequate detail and time for respondents to give considered views.
The purpose of this consultation is to ensure that the Government are able to consider the best available evidence when finalising policy decisions. The views and evidence of respondents will inform the Government’s approach to implementing this landmark reform to the funding arrangements for research, prevention and treatment in an effective, evidence-led and proportionate way.
The consultation will be open for eight weeks, closing on 14 December. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the Government will then publish a formal response to set out our decision and reasoning before implementing the changes via secondary legislation.
The Government’s ambition has been, and will continue to be, to ensure that people across our country can access trusted, quality information, support and treatment when it comes to gambling-related harms, and that the Government and the Gambling Commission have access to timely, independent research to inform policy and regulation. The publication of this consultation shows our commitment to this ambition and progress towards developing a sustainable and world-leading system for research, prevention and treatment.
We absolutely want those who enjoy gambling without coming to harm to continue to do so. However, tackling gambling-related harm is a top priority for the Government and raising independent, trusted and sustainable funding for research, prevention and treatment of gambling-related harms is a crucial component of a regulatory framework which aims to prevent harm before it occurs, while ensuring people can access the help they need if and when they need it.
I will deposit a copy of the consultation in the Libraries of both Houses.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
International Climate Finance
I would like to update the House on our progress towards meeting the UK’s commitment to spend £11.6 billion of International Climate Finance (ICF) between financial years 2021/22 and 2025/26.
The UK has long looked to lead on climate action. We were the first major economy to legislate for net zero and we remain committed to this goal. During our COP26 presidency we worked with all parties to deliver the Glasgow climate pact and keep 1.5 degrees within reach. In March this year, we published our 2030 strategic framework which set out how we will drive forward international action on climate and nature, working to keep 1.5 alive by halving global emissions, building resilience to current and future climate impacts and halting and reversing biodiversity loss. We also published our ICF strategy, underpinning our commitment to spending £11.6 billion ICF by March 2026.
Development and tackling climate change and nature loss are intertwined challenges. Since 2011/12, the UK has committed to spending a significant proportion of its aid budget on ICF to help developing countries address both the causes and impacts of climate change. This spending comes from four Government Departments: the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. The table below sets out total UK ICF spend by financial year since 2011/12. UK ICF spend by calendar year can be found as reported to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) under the biennial reports, currently covering 2011-2020.
Financial year UK ICF spend (£million) 2011/12 403 2012/13 566 2013/14 772 2014/15 910 2015/16 1,188 ICF ‘1’ (2011/12 to 2015/16) Total: £3,840 million 2016/17 1,119 2017/18 965 2018/19 1,174 2019/20 1,161 2020/21 1,560 ICF ‘2’ (2015/16 to 2020/21) Total: £5,980 million
UK ICF spend (£million)
ICF ‘1’ (2011/12 to 2015/16)
Total: £3,840 million
ICF ‘2’ (2015/16 to 2020/21)
Total: £5,980 million
The £11.6 billion ICF commitment covers financial years 2021/22 to 2025/26 and represents a significant part of the UK’s contribution to the global target of providing $100 billion in climate finance annually to developing countries. The table below sets out how we expect to meet our target, showing spend in 2021/22 and 2022/23 and an expected range for UK ICF spending for 2023/24 to 2025/26 with the scale-up reflecting both the increasing importance of tackling climate change and the growth in our economy.
Financial year UK ICF spendand forecast spend (£ million) 2021/22 1,648 2022/23 1,629 2023/24 1,800-2,100 2024/25 2,500-2,800 2025/26 3,400-3,800 ICF ‘3’ (2021/22 to 2025/26) Total: 11,600 million
UK ICF spendand forecast spend (£ million)
ICF ‘3’ (2021/22 to 2025/26)
Total: 11,600 million
The UK has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the major global climate funds, including the green climate fund, the global environment facility, the climate investment funds, and the adaptation fund. Our pledges to these funds have been significant. The UK gave £1.44 billion to the green climate fund for 2020-23, making the UK the top donor to the fund and on 10 September 2023 the Prime Minister announced a further $2 billion (£1.62 billion) towards the next green climate fund replenishment—the biggest single funding commitment the UK has made to help developing countries tackle climate change. In recent years, following UK lobbying, a number of other international finance institutions have increased their commitments to financing climate action in developing countries. We will, therefore, include the climate relevant share of future UK contributions to the World Bank’s international development association fund, as well as other key development banks when we report ICF spending.
Our ICF achieves tangible, real-world benefits for the world’s poorest and most climate vulnerable. Since 2011, ICF has supported over 100 million people to adapt better to the effects of climate change and provided almost 70 million people with improved access to clean energy.
In addition, our programmes have avoided or reduced over 86 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, avoided over 400,000 hectares of deforestation and mobilised £6,884 million in climate finance from the private sector1. Our funding also supports cutting-edge research and innovation of new technologies.
We will ensure that our climate finance is balanced between funding for mitigation and adaptation. In contrast to many other donors, the UK’s international climate finance is all official development assistance, which means it is concessional finance that delivers benefits for developing countries. We have historically provided over 85% of our ICF as grants, enabling developing countries to mitigate against and adapt to the impacts of climate change without incurring further significant debt. This compares to the global average of just 26% grant finance2. We will focus on grants and on efforts to improve access to climate finance, including through the NDC Partnership3 and Taskforce for Access to Climate Finance. At the same time, we recognise the need for increased private investment to deliver the scale of finance needed for the global net zero transition and for adaptation. We will ensure that we maximise the opportunities presented by increasing climate investments through British International Investment (BII) and other private finance mobilisation programmes.
The UK’s overall contribution to the global $100 billion climate finance target goes far beyond our £11.6 billion official development assistance commitment. If the UK were to include the full value of our investments delivered through British international investment, as other donors do through their own development finance institutions, this would have amounted to an additional £747 million in 2021/22 and 2022/23. Furthermore, our innovative multibillion pound guarantee facilities4 with the multilateral development banks will contribute $5.8 billion towards global climate finance targets. The UK also provides export finance that supports climate action in developing countries. Including these contributions, along with the private finance mobilised through our programmes, would increase the total finance that the UK provides for climate change between 2021/22 and 2025/26 to well in excess of £11.6 billion.
We will continue to provide high-quality finance to deliver the transformational results needed to support developing countries tackle the causes and devastating impacts of climate change.
1 UK International-Climate-Finance Results 2023.pdf
2 OECD (2022), aggregate trends of climate finance provided and mobilised by developed countries in 2013 to 2020
3 NDC Partnership
4 Room to Run Guarantee
and Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership Launched at G20,
and South Africa Just Energy Transition Investment Plan,
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-south-africa-just-energy-transition-investment-plan#:~:text=The %20UK% 20is%20providing%20%241.3,and%20the%20South%20Africa% 20Government
and Contingent Liability Notification: India Green Guarantee
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Long-term Plan for Towns
Towns are the places most people in the United Kingdom call home and most people go to work. The impact on towns is felt by millions of people every day, in the form of vacant high streets, depleted town centres and antisocial behaviour.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, employment in towns has grown at half the rate of cities outside London, and around a third of that of out-of-town areas. High street vacancy tends to be much higher in towns than cities: in Rotherham, nearly a third of shops are empty, and in Bolton, Grimsby and Stoke, more than one in seven has been empty for three years. Meanwhile, coastal towns typically suffer disproportionately from crime—which is 12% higher on the coast—and public health challenges, as highlighted by the Government’s chief medical officer.
People understandably feel like their town is ignored by Westminster, businesses are not provided with incentives to invest, and young people grow up wanting to leave. Without a change in approach, the country will remain lopsided towards the interests and values of people living in cities who make up a small part of our nation, stultifying other parts of the UK.
That is why the UK Government have supported towns in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through a series of targeted investments including: the £3.2 billion towns fund that has supported 101 English towns to drive economic and productivity growth, with £1 billion of this funding allocated to the future high streets fund, supporting 72 places to create thriving high streets in the future. A further £3.8 billion of the levelling up fund has been allocated during two rounds to support over 200 places across the UK, supporting regeneration, town centre improvements, improving transport connectivity, and cultural projects. The £150 million community ownership fund is supporting community groups to deliver for their local communities, over £400 million of levelling up partnerships investment is providing bespoke place-based investment for the 20 areas most in need of levelling up, and the UK-wide freeports programme is helping to contribute to the prosperity of our towns.
Our new long-term plan for towns will now go further to demonstrate an enduring commitment to our towns. Drawing from our experiences delivering the levelling up fund, towns fund and levelling up partnerships, and listening to the feedback from local authorities and delivery partners, we will put local people at the centre of their town’s development with long-term flexible funding to respond to the priorities of local people.
We have identified 55 towns across England, Scotland and Wales to develop our long-term plan for towns, backed by £1.1 billion, to drive ambitious plans to regenerate local towns.
The Government will work with local councils and the devolved Administrations to determine how towns in Scotland and Wales will benefit from funding and powers under the long-term plans. In Northern Ireland, we look forward to working with a restored Executive to determine the approach to providing support.
Under the new approach, local people will be put in charge, and given the tools to change their town’s long-term future. They will:
Receive a 10-year £20 million endowment-style fund to be spent on local people's priorities, like regenerating local high streets and town centres or securing public safety.
Set up a town board to bring together community leaders, employers, local authorities, and the local MP, to deliver the long-term plan for their town and put it to local people for consultation.
Use a suite of regeneration powers to unlock more private sector investment by auctioning empty high street shops, reforming licensing rules on shops and restaurants, and supporting more housing in town centres.
There will be a new towns taskforce based in my Department reporting directly to the Prime Minister and I. This will help towns boards to develop their plans and advise them on how best to take advantage of Government policies, unlock private and philanthropic investment and work with communities.
A new “High Streets and Towns Task Force” will also be established, building on the success of the existing version, providing each selected town with bespoke, hands-on support.
Towns have been allocated funding according to the levelling up needs index which takes into account metrics covering skills, pay, productivity and health, as well as the index of multiple deprivation to ensure funding goes directly to the towns which will benefit most, without new competitions or unnecessary hurdles. A full methodology note has been published and we have written to the relevant local authorities.
I will place a copy of the prospectus and methodology note in the Library of the House.
Annex A: List of towns/places
Barry (Vale of Glamorgan)
Note: there is no statistical definition of a city. Two of the selected places have city status but they have been identified on the basis of deprivation and they have a population size of 20,000 to 100,000 as set out in the published methodology.